It can be disappointing and heartbreaking both to the artist and the person receiving an artwork when they open it to find it damaged.
Artists should realize that packages sent though the postal services may be punctured, crushed, thrown, or dropped.
So adequate precautions must be made to protect against all these instances.
Always expect the worst when shipping art, and go through all steps to make your piece as safe from physical harm as you possibly can.
Packing artwork doesn’t have to be expensive. Artists can do it economically and safely with materials they have at home, or which can be purchased cheaply.
Artworks must be securely packed and detailed instructions for packing and unpacking should be contained within. Realize that many times the staff at smaller galleries and art competitions are volunteers and inexperienced. They may have many pieces to examine. So the better you package your artwork and the more detailed your instructions are, the better impression you will give to these people who will be considering your work for exhibition.
Here are some thing to consider when packaging your paintings and sculptures for shipping through postal services.
Tips for Shipping and Packaging Art Safely
- Write a condition report of the exact condition of your artwork before you ship it. Include all specifications about the piece, such as dimensions, title and media. Also include information about any marks, scratches or imperfections that are already on the piece. Sign and date the condition report.
- Photograph the artwork before mailing. This will provide visual documentation of the condition of the artwork.
It is a very good idea to photograph all your artwork anyway, even if you are not sending it through the mail.
- Use two cardboard boxes, one inside the other, for shipping smaller and fragile objects. The boxes should be clean, new, and have no printed material. For smaller artworks, Tupperware can make a great substitution for an interior box. A wooden crate is recommended for larger artworks, and should have handles if it is heavy.
- Never ship sculptural pieces together. Always package them in separate boxes or crates. Sometimes paintings can be shipped within the same box, especially if they are adequately separated and protected from one another.
- At least 2 inches of packing material should line the box. This can be packing peanuts, building insulation sheathing, etc. I have even heard of some using sponge from (clean) cushions from discarded couches for this purpose.
- Wrap the painting or sculpture in a soft material that will not scratch or stick to the surface. Use materials such as glassine paper or plastic. Do not wrap your artwork in any material without first considering the consequences. For example, for paintings some worry about certain materials sticking to the paint – especially if there are temperature changes during shipping. After a painting is wrapped, use masking-tape to tape bubble wrap around the piece.
- The painting or sculpture should be nestled in between the outer 2 inches of packing material, so that none of the sides touches the outer packing material. This serves as an impact cushion in case the package is dropped, and further protects it from puncturing. Use materials such as crumpled newspaper, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, or foam. Make sure the object fits tightly in there, is unmovable, and weight is evenly distributed.
- Have instructions for packing and unpacking the artwork on the inside of the box, so this is the first thing which is seen when opening. This can be taped to the inside of the box, or marked onto the box itself with black marker. Also include all your contact information within the box, as sometimes the outside label may be damaged and unreadable. This includes the address of both yourself and the receiver.
- Partly tape the box and do a shake test. If you notice any movement at all, you will have to unpack and further secure the artwork.
- Fold up the box and tape all gaps and corners with wide packing tape. This will protect the insides from moisture, prevent insects from entering, and prevent tears in corners.
- This seems like a lot of work, but will be worth it. If you are submitting for an art competition or gallery showing, they will certainly appreciate the extra effort. You will not only show that you have a good knowledge of packaging, but also care about preserving your artwork. Packaging your paintings securely will help keep your artwork safe, along with making you appear more professional.
- When you bring your package to the post office, make sure you get a tracking number. Also insure the artwork for the FULL cost! I know of an artist who had artworks stolen in the mail, and did not bother to insure for the full worth of the piece. They did file a claim, but only received the amount it was insured for. Please don’t make this mistake, and always insure your artworks before shipping.
I realize that many artists have different preferences and things they do to make sure their artwork arrives safely to its destination. Do you have any thoughts to share? What materials and process do you use when packaging and shipping your artworks?